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Rashard Lawrence Following Impressive LSU Draft Pipeline To Cardinals

Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu among recent Cardinals picks from the school

Rashard Lawrence hopes his experience at LSU will help during the transition to the NFL.
Rashard Lawrence hopes his experience at LSU will help during the transition to the NFL.

Steve Keim uses a meticulous process to evaluate draft prospects each year.

If Rashard Lawrence works out, maybe a very simple question should top the general manager's list: did the player attend LSU?

The Cardinals have found great recent success at the school, as two of their previous three selections were Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.

Lawrence, the fourth-round defensive tackle, may not have the first-round pedigree of Peterson or a sweet nickname like the Honey Badger, but he's excited to follow in their footsteps in Arizona.

"Pat P reached out to me a couple days ago, just welcoming me to the city," Lawrence said. "Obviously I can't be there yet, but when I get there, I'll link up with him. And just knowing Tyrann, I don't have a personal relationship with him, but, man, just knowing the type of player he is and the type of stand-up guy he is, to be the next Cardinal selected, it's pretty cool. Those guys had great years, and Pat is still doing it with the Cardinals at a high level."

Lawrence was not a superstar in college like Peterson and Mathieu, but the experience he gained playing for the Tigers should serve him well in the NFL. LSU tied the NFL record by having 14 players drafted in 2020, led by No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow.

Lawrence was a three-year captain for the program, which said a lot to Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.

"If you ask any player on LSU's team, from Joe Burrow down to (Thaddeus) Moss, all those guys, which player you want to go to war with, it's always Lawrence," Joseph said.

At the end of the 2018 season, Lawrence could have turned pro, but a conversation with Burrow while they were named MVPs of the Fiesta Bowl helped solidify his decision to return to school.

"I remember, we were at State Farm Stadium, and after we won, me and Joe were on the stage, and he was like, 'Man, you've got to come back. We've got to do this and win a championship,'" Lawrence said. "That's where it kind of started for us."

Lawrence finished 2019 with 28 tackles, six tackles for loss and 2½ sacks as the Tigers went 15-0 and won the title. He was a five-star recruit coming out of nearby Monroe, Louisiana, and while the collegiate production wasn't head-turning, Lawrence believes injuries and scheme limited his individual impact.

"When I was out there, when I was healthy, I think I was a difference-maker," Lawrence said. "It was a different scheme that we played at LSU – more of a react and attack scheme. So I wasn't asked to go out there and be Superman and make a bunch of plays all over the field, but I always did my job."

The Cardinals use a more aggressive defense, so Lawrence will have his chance to make an impact if he earns significant playing time.

"He's a mature grown man, so he's going to walk in Day One and help us win football games," Joseph said.

Lawrence plans to lean heavily on his LSU experience as he transitions to the NFL, as the SEC is often the best training ground for future professionals.

There is one thing that may not make the move as he begins his pro career: the full beard Lawrence has been rocking since he was a teenager.

"I never have shaved it all the way off," Lawrence said. "Depending on how hot it gets, I might."